Feb 24, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Kony Ealy runs the shuttle during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Overview: Voted first-team All SEC in 2013, Kony Ealy is a big athlete with a lot of upside. His production speaks for itself as he recorded 43 tackles, 14.5 for loss, 9.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and an interception that he returned 49 yards for a touchdown last year. After what I would say was a poor combine performance, I was eager to hit the tape on Ealy and see if I thought he was better than the numbers he posted in Indianapolis.
- Prototypical length for the position. Looks a bit thin at first glance, but carries his weight well and definitely has the frame to add more.
- Explosive athlete. Gets up the field in a hurry and has the speed to chase down the quarterback.
- Changes direction well. I don’t usually project 270 pounders to play outside linebacker, but this guy could do it. Has a spin move that will make you drool.
- Good in pursuit. Fast enough to chase down ball carriers and willing to fight his way through traffic.
- Does not set the edge well. Takes on blocks with the wrong shoulder too often and gets moved off the point of attack a little too easily.
- Plays too high. Runs around upright way too much and consequently his playing speed does not translate into hitting power as much as it should.
- Needs to improve functional strength. Gets pushed around at the line of scrimmage and can be manhandled by bigger offensive linemen.
- Absolutely worthless against double-teams. Disappears way too fast and gets moved wherever the offensive linemen want him to go.
NFL Player Comparison: Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers. Comparing Ealy to another former Missouri Tiger was just too good to pass up. Besides, there are a lot of similarities between these guys. Both have excellent length for the position with really long arms (Ealy’s are 34 1/4 inches), and both have the hip flexibility to play outside linebacker in the 3-4. Ealy even reminds me of Smith in how raw he is coming out of college, but that didn’t stop Smith from recording 14 sacks as a rookie and compiling 42 in his first three seasons in the NFL.
The Way I See It: Where Kony Ealy gets drafted will have a huge impact on his playing career. If he goes somewhere stable that has a good coaching staff in place, he could have Aldon Smith-like production early in his career. If he doesn’t get the coaching he needs, I think he will bust fairly quickly. That having been said, I wouldn’t mind the Bears making this pick at all. He has all the upside required to become the dynamic pass rusher the Chicago so desperately needs on the defensive line.